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California Musical Theatre

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California Musical Theatre is Northern California's premiere producer and presenter of musical theatre - the largest nonprofit musical theatre in California. Since the inception of Music Circus in 1951 under an open-air, circus-style big top, California Musical Theatre has grown to become the most successful non-profit performing arts organization in Northern California. Between the Music Circus, and Broadway Sacramento, California Musical Theatre entertains over 200,000 patrons every year. In addition to the unforgettable productions we bring to Sacramento, California Musical Theatre:

Trains artists of the future through internships.

Relies on the generosity of hundreds of volunteers - backstage, in the lobby, ushering, in the office and at special event throughout the year.

It's the association's Educational programs for students and teachers.

And it's our membership programs where audience members support the ongoing quality of our productions as well as contribute to California Musical Theatre's educational efforts.

California Musical Theatre is a member of the League of American Theaters and Producers, a founding member of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre and a member of the League of Sacramento Theatres.


California Musical Theatre (once known as Sacramento Light Opera Association) - the Capital City's oldest professional performing arts organization and California's largest nonprofit musical theatre company was born in a parking lot, the product of a fortunate convergence of local boosterism and Broadway know-how, prudent business practices and theatrical artistry, compatible personalities and simple good luck.

In 1949 theatrical innovator St. John Terrell set up a circus tent in an empty New Jersey field and began producing musical plays. The Music Circus, as Terrell's hybrid was called, mixed familiar but disparate elements of theatre in a combination no one had ever tried before: the informality of the circus; the arena layout that afforded everyone a good seat; the summer-camp, Chautauqua-style ambiance; and the musicals themselves, then, as now, the first choice with theatregoers. It took the Eastern Seaboard by storm. From their headquarters in Los Angeles, Russell Lewis and Howard Young were watching closely.

Lewis and Young had produced eight shows on Broadway and 27 for national tours before heading west after their World War II service. They were considering setting up a music circus on the West Coast when they got a call from Eleanor McClatchy, president of The Sacramento Bee and the city's foremost theatrical "angel." The founder of the Civic Repertory Theater, one of the city's leading amateur troupes, she was determined to bring professional quality theatre - in particular, musical theatre - to Sacramento. McClatchy invited Lewis and Young up for a look around. The three hit it off from the start.

After two meetings and a few phone calls, the deal was done: Lewis and Young Productions launched Sacramento Music Circus - the first of the new "tune-tents" west of the Mississippi and only the fourth in the entire country - in the Civic Repertory Theater parking lot. It was an instant success, the "in" thing to do on a summer evening.

"A Lovely, Quiet Thing to Do"

Under Lewis and Young's direction, Music Circus, formally incorporated as the Sacramento Light Opera Association (SLOA) in 1953, put its hometown on the theatrical map. With Lewis overseeing artistic details and Young tending to the business side of the enterprise, the partners quickly impressed professional actors across the country by bringing Broadway production values to the tent.

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BOX OFFICE:Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office 1419 H Street Sacramento, CA 95814 Box Office Phone: (916) 557-1999 Box Office Fax: (916) 557-2775 Email:


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